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Keenan Allen Could Lead the League in Targets

Antonio Brown will probably lead the league in targets this year. But if he doesn’t, the next most likely receiver to do it is Keenan Allen

The Los Angeles Chargers underperformed to a 3-6 start to the 2017 season.

After a week 10 loss at Jacksonville, the Chargers bounced back to finish 6-1 in the last seven weeks of 2017.

What changed?

Well, Allen was hungry.

So, Rivers fed him.

LAC Record

Allen Target Share

Allen Targets Per Game

Weeks 1-10

3 – 6

0.25

8.89

Weeks 11-17

6 – 1

0.30

11.28

The Chargers would be wise to continue to force the ball to Allen after the success they had at the end of last year. Notably, Hunter Henry, another difference maker on the Chargers, did not see an increased target share across this split.1 The data suggests that getting the ball to Allen contributed to the Chargers’ late-season success.

2018-2019 Target Projection

Team Level Assumptions

Here are the Chargers’ team-level splits from last year, for reference.

Pass Percent
Plays Per Game
Weeks 1-10 0.60 59
Weeks 11-17 0.55 67

  • The Chargers’ Vegas win total is 9. A quick median projection places them at a similar number of plays run as their 9-7 season last year. Using 63 plays per game – a basic average of their splits last season – results in a projection of 1,003 plays for this season.
  • In their last seven games, the Chargers had a 55 percent pass tendency. In their first nine games, they had a 60 percent pass tendency. The five percent discrepancy in pass rate can be attributed to differences in game script. A median projection, given a nine win season, should place them at a 58 percent pass rate for this year.

There is room for fantasy upside in the team level projections, though. The Chargers are a rather heavy Vegas favorite to win the AFC West 2 and found a spark at the end of last season, so I would not be surprised to see them push for eleven or twelve wins this year, which would likely increase their overall number of plays. Splitting their median projection of 63 plays per game with their 13.7 win and 2.3 loss 67 plays per game pace of last season’s split gives a 65 plays per game projection of 1,040 plays for the year.

Although they had a 55 percent pass split while on a tear late last season, they had a ludicrous average win margin of 17.5 points in those six wins which likely buffered their run percentage. If the Chargers have a ten plus win season this year, I expect they will maintain a pass percentage that more closely resembles their norm.

1,040 plays with a 58 percent pass tendency results in 570 pass attempts after accounting for sacks.

Allen Target Share Projection

The Chargers should recognize that increasing Allen’s target share correlated positively with victories last year. My median projection has Allen regressing a tad from the 30 percent share he garnered for the second half of last year, but still at the elite level with a 29 percent share.

Henry’s ACL tear opens the floodgates for Allen’s targets, though. Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Melvin Gordon, and Austin Ekeler are the only remaining relevant pass catchers on the roster. Based off his historically poor rookie year production, Mike Williams is unlikely to play a role with enough significance to take away from Allen. Tyrell Williams garnered a 12 percent share last year, and Gordon had a 14 percent target share. There are whisperings of Ekeler gaining an increased role in the passing game; but, this will likely just siphon targets from Gordon.

It is difficult to project any of these pass catchers for greater than a 15 percent target share this year. With a void of other pass-catching talent to soak up targets, Allen could experience a spike in targets like DeAndre Hopkins’ 2015 and 2017 target spikes without Andre Johnson or Will Fuller.

Results

Using 570 pass attempts after sacks, here are the target projections:

Target Share Targets
0.29 (median) 165
0.31 176
0.33 188
0.35 (Hopkins’ 2017 share) 199

Given that it takes around 185 targets to lead the league each year, Allen has a great chance to do it in 2018.

Year League Leader Target Total
2017 174
2016 171
2015 203
2014 184
2013 182
2012 204
2011 179
2010 179
Average 185

This analysis also hints at Allen’s overall fantasy upside.

Here are my corresponding fantasy projections with the upside target projections I provided:

TRGMS reTRG reREC reAIR reYD reTD PPR
0.29 165.31 110.76 1454.70 1363.78 7.11 289.78
0.31 176.71 118.39 1555.03 1457.84 7.60 309.77
0.33 188.11 126.03 1655.35 1551.89 8.09 329.75
0.35 199.51 133.67 1755.67 1645.94 8.58 349.74

Notice how these lofty PPR projections do not even consider that touchdown variance could fall in Allen’s favor.

Allen has a clear path to massive target and fantasy upside.

As a strong candidate to lead the league in targets this year, I am drafting him as the WR3 overall.

  1. His target share increased a negligible amount, from 14 percent to 15 percent.  (back)
  2. LAC +128, KC +233, OAK +403, DEN +518  (back)
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